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Failing to upgrade to IPv6 will destroy future Internet and smartphone innovation

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by Axel Pawlik, 30 Oct 2013Features
Failing to upgrade to IPv6 will destroy future Internet and smartphone innovation

Smartphones are incredible devices. Their slim chassis can hold a sophisticated processor, a high-res camera, full-HD screen and, more importantly, connect to the Internet. They have changed the way we communicate with our friends and family, and the way we work.

Because of this, the findings in one of Gartner's most recent quarterly reports on smartphone growth should come as no surprise: in a time of global economic uncertainty, smartphone sales have grown 46 per cent worldwide over the last year.

This ever-increasing number of Internet-connected devices all need IP (Internet protocol) addresses to maintain their versatile functionality. IPv6 is vital for supporting future Internet growth because we've already started to exhaust IPv4 resources around the world.

Imagine how boring all of the gadgets unveiled at IFA would be if they couldn't connect to the Internet, or could only talk to a limited part of the Internet.

And imagine how a business could be affected if it was purchasing new equipment only to find out that it needed to be replaced in a few years, because it couldn't communicate with a growing portion of the online world.

While smartphone sales have increased over the last year, IPv6 deployment has also progressed, though it's still early days. For example, the percentage of Internet users accessing Google over IPv6 grew to around 1.5 per cent from 0.5 per cent during the past year.

While these are still small numbers, this nevertheless represents a significant increase. As smartphones become cheaper and more accessible and as more appliances and gadgets become connected, the need for IPv6 will become even greater.

If you're a business or a consumer buying an Internet connected device, be sure to ask if it is IPv6-ready. By not deploying IPv6 now, we risk hindering future innovation by limiting the number of devices that can be connected to the Internet, and the Internet of things, which we have great expectations for, will never become a reality.

Axel Pawlik is the managing director of the RIPE Network Coordination Centre.

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